Ronald Jones Still Jonesing

Submitted by Paula Sealy

Ronald Jones could talk because he went on leave after the 30-love. He could talk because he has a fat pension as a former minister in Cabinet. He may not remember but he was the minister who saw teachers’ leave stopped in 2014 in the first place.

Teachers Want to Know… DID President Pedro Shepherd Ask to Lease BUT Lands for $1.00?

Submitted by Paula Seale

Three years ago the BUT named a road in its housing project after former president Karen Best. There is a fence between the land of the project and the bus stop next to the hardware store in Hothersal if you want directions. Mrs. Best said her vice president Pedro Shepherd had wanted to lease the land to raise his chickens. The offer was made between 2003 when Mrs. Best become president and 2012 when she resigned.

According to Mrs. Best, he wanted to pay a dollar a year to lease the 12 acres of land. When I heard about that I started to ask myself some questions. What good to the union was one dollar a year? What sort of conscience does it take to offer to pay one dollar annually to use 12 acres of land? Land which belongs to the union you are serving as vice president? Mr. Shepherd was on YouTube on Monday. I was listening to hear about the money the ministry docked from teachers like me back in 2016. I didn’t hear anything about that. 

I left the BUT this year because I have no confidence in Mr. Shepherd. My issues started with that dollar a year talk. It had me puzzled and caused me to start thinking about what I was going to accept. After all he and his cronies did for two years to sabotage the former president he is back. And now it is embarrassment and more embarrassment.

I went to buy groceries on Wednesday. A group of people were laughing when they talking about the union in the car park. One woman who overheard them asked if teachers couldn’t find somebody else to be president. She even brought up the degrees and education we talk about having. The man with her said Mr. Shepherd should stick to the smaller words he can manage and stop reading from a laptop like a robot. I was embarrassed as a teacher. We are becoming the laughing stock of Barbados.

Mr. Shepherd is one of the people named in the docking of pay case so he should be able to inform us. I believe he wants back his money and I would love mine too. Why weren’t teachers informed about the case on Monday? We should be able to get an update. Mr. Shepherd asked Mr. Spencer for an update at the annual conference two years ago. Why can’t Mr. Shepherd give us an update now?

Fair is fair.

It looked like Mr. Shepherd was no closer to understanding secondary school matters on Monday. We do not stay with one class for an entire school day. I may teach four or five different groups in one school day. We can’t stop teaching at lunch each day to come back the next day and continue with the same class. lt does not work like that. As a former student, a parent of adult children, the ex-husband of a secondary school teacher and the president of a teachers’ union he should understand more about how things work in secondary schools. He was the BUT president for a long time. He does not seem to be learning though. Either that, he doesn’t care to learn, he isn’t interested in learning or he was never interested.

In these times I would not boast about being at work from 9 to 1 like he did. Many of us are under constant pressure. As the president it can’t only be about him. I believe that was thoughtless and careless. A lot of teachers put in very long hours preparing lessons day and night. And then they have to be online to teach those lessons, do corrections, create notes and exercises, and still attend to the home, find time to sleep, take care of their families, go shopping and so on.

Mr. Shepherd is the IT Coordinator at Wilkie. I understand another teacher was doing a lot of the IT work there for years. But that never stopped him from arguing about not getting his coordinator’s allowance. Before Mr. Spencer beat him in 2018, he was on the executive from 1996. The people in the area around Wilkie would tell you that he was at that school for over 30 years. Despite his time at the school and as a union man and as a top officer of the union, Wilkie is in bad shape.

He said the ministry can’t touch teachers’ money back at the meeting in Queen’s Park. We all know what happened after that. Now he and Ronald Jones are on the DLP executive together. So teachers can’t hear about the pay that was docked when Mr. Jones was the Minister of Education. That would remind people of how the party Mr. Shepherd serves as Ass. General Secretary treats teachers’ rights and salaries. It is not like the BLP is any better.

Union elections are due next month. So I expect Mr. Shepherd will be in the news more regularly now. What we aren’t hearing about is the money we lost when he was president in 2016. What teachers need from the union is representation. Not comments that make the president and teachers by extension seem foolish to the public.

What about term’s leave?

What is the union doing about leave?

Has the lawyer said anything about the long leave or the docking of pay?

Teachers want to know. We deserve to know. 

Principal Everton Briggs Enters Race for President of the BUT

The media report that headmaster of St. Bernard’s Primary School Everton Briggs has entered the race for president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is not news that should ordinarily create alarm in the public space. Across the Caribbean principals are routinely elected to the executive of school unions.

Today’s press report refers to Briggs’ possible conflict of interest because he served on the BUT executive when Karen Best was president, currently the Chief Education Officer. There is mention that Briggs’ appointment at St Bernard’s Primary School came after Best was in the role of Chief Education Officer. Note that Karen Best was a principal and president of the BUT.

There is enough grist in the report to pique the curiosity of fair minded citizens as to why Briggs wants to throw his hat in the ring at this time- as is his right. If one accepts how the BUT is designed to operate, the executive directs (or should) direct the workings of the BUT. If Briggs deviates then BUT’s Constitution its allow for the membership to deal with ultra vires behaviour by bringing a vote of no confidence. However, the reality of how  associations in Barbados operate is another matter and how it commingles with a passive and politically polarized membership is a factor not to be underestimated. These associations are usually heavily influenced by the traits of the leader.

The blogmaster for the last ten years has sided with those who calling for civic minded Barbadians who serve the public to exercise a high level of probity. There is nothing wrong with Briggs being ambitious, the BUT membership will have to decide!

If we engage in a back of the envelope historical analysis of the rise of Ronald Jones from BUT president to that of minister of education and the appointment of Karen Best, also a former BUT president to Chief Education Officer under his watch. There is enough to inform a perspective that the position of BUT president is seen and have been used as a vehicle for political- in its general definition- advancement. We should be aware of how interlocking relationships can breed incestuous and unprofessional behaviour.

The blogmaster does not have evidence to ascribe political or less than honourable motives to Briggs, however, in recent years across the union leadership it is obvious there has been clear evidence of external influence. We encourage individuals to step forward to serve but there is also a need to ensure citizens are eternally vigilant and hold feet to the fire when merited.







Trade Unions Baring Teeth on the Eve of 50th Independence Celebration

The BU household states for the record it supports the initiative by government to stoke our pride and industry by celebrating all that we have achieved since 1966. What we do NOT agree with is the government using the 50th Anniversary event as an opportunity to feather the popularity of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) with a general election looming large on the horizon.

It seems an exercise in tomfoolery that the government would engage in all year planning of the 50th Anniversary event and allow the grand finale to be ‘compromised’ by an escalation in the industrial climate in Barbados.

The incestuous relationship the government has with the NUPW (for sure) should be enough to make it aware that the climate is ‘hotting’ up. The government through the Prime Minister and the head of the Personnel Administration Department (PAD) will have to do a better job to convince BU and others that the Akanni McDowall matter does not have some politics in it. Not too long ago a DLP entrenched Derek Alleyne failed in a widely publicised motion to remove McDowall from the presidency of the NUPW.

The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has entered the fray by issuing a 5 o’clock deadline to government to expire on the 19 November 2016. It claims the government through its agent the PAD has not responded to correspondence sent a month ago. Its General Secretary Toni Moore has threatened that the union is prepared to “bare its teeth” although it prefers a more conciliatory approach to resolving the grievances.

The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) have also taken an aggressive position as it relates to the government addressing the matter of compensation for marking School Based Assessment (SBA). The government should take careful note that the SBA grievance is more a concern for the BSTU. The BUT has also signalled that the docking of pay from teacher salaries for attending a meeting a few months ago and the threat to dock the pay of those who attended the meeting yesterday has been placed on the radar. The BUT leadership has determined that the government has resorted to tactics to intimidate labour.

Already there are confirmed reports about the painful process Barbadians returning home have been experiencing to clear Immigration and Customs at the airport. Those of us who have experienced the service delivered by the two departments BEFORE the go-slow know that it was already slow because of the manual inspection methods used by Customs. One can only imagine the agony being experienced by weary Barbadians (travellers) as they clear Immigration and Customs on a daily basis. Let us hope it will not dampen their enthusiasm especially when it comes to spending the US dollars.

Can you imagine we have the ridiculous situation where there is confusion about whether Akanni McDowall has the required qualification for an established post in the civil service?  Can you imagine a junior employee with the same qualification as McDowall was recruited to fill the post? Can you imagine McDowall’s contract was terminated 6 weeks before it expired? The NUPW argues YES and the head of PAD say NO. May the lord help this country.

To complicate the issue –add oil to the industrial waters, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has hinted in a statement last week his government may have to introduce legislation to prevent unions from holding the country to ransom. Should we assume from the Prime Minister’s position that the touted social partnership is failing?

The takeaway from this submission is for the government to note that the trade unions are collaborating. A word to the wise should be sufficient. As we write this blog the industrial climate at the airport has deteriorated with a breakdown in wages talks.

By the way, was that Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union sitting next to Toni Moore from Barbados Workers Union the other day?

The Teacher’s Lot

Today’s Barbados Advocate Editorial addresses the decision by the Ministry of Education to dock teachers salaries who attended meetings called by the Unions.

The policeman’s lot, the opera composers, Gilbert and Sullivan, assure us in their production, The “Pirates of Penzance”, is “not a happy one”. Members of the Barbados Union of Teachers [BUT], after their travails in recent weeks, might wish to argue that teachers face a similar unhappy predicament. The clincher to this proposition would have come with the recent notification from officials in their parent ministry, Ministry of Education to the Secretary-Treasurers of the respective Boards of Management of those schools to which members of the BUT are attached, that the salaries of those teachers who attended, without permission, meetings of the Union convened in late April and early May, should be proportionately abated for the month of May 2016. The letter claims also that this is notification is in accordance with section 3. 3. 2. of the General Orders of Barbados. (sic).

This measure raises an intriguing point of law, one that has not been the subject matter of a local trial to our best knowledge. And, according to the BUT, it had already sought and obtained legal advice on the matter, which satisfied it that the Ministry “did not have a leg to stand on. In spite of this, we have serious reservations as to whether there will indeed be court action, given the express words of the president of the BUT, Mr Pedro Shepherd, that they were quite willing to pursue the matter up to the level of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff associations of Barbados [CTUSAB] and the Social Partnership, although he did add that the BUT would take the matter “as far as necessary”, if the letter were not withdrawn.

That an employer legally has the right to withhold the wages of an employee for the period that the employee is not ready and willing to work is not in dispute. And while the letter, now in the public domain, referred to a part of the General Orders, a near identical provision has been enacted in paragraph 15 (1) of the Second Schedule (the Code of Conduct and Ethics), to the Public Service Act 2007 (as amended).

According to this-

Officers who are absent from duty without permission, except in the opinion of the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department the absence is due to illness or other unavoidable circumstances, are in breach of this Code, and their pay may be reduced appropriately by the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department to take account of such absence”.

This entitlement of the employer is also reinforced by case law. The BUT’s response to this is that provisions in the Constitution and the Trade Unions Act allow for the holding of these meetings although we understand that any such attendance would be permitted only if permission had been granted or unreasonably withheld in response to an application for leave to do so.

In any event, Mr Shepherd argues, at least 99 % of those attending would have been granted permission by their principals or those in charge of the school.

This appears to us to be the crux of the issue for now. Whether permission was granted or not may easily be established on the evidence. So long as it was granted, there should be no abatement of salaries. The official letter concedes as much.

Awe envisage a further dispute, however, in respect of the assessment of the proportionate abatement where this is justified. Does a teacher’s salary accrue by the minute, the hour or by the day? What if he or she attends school for the greater part of the day, not having been previously warned that part performance would be unacceptable.

Crisis in Education

Submitted by Anthony Davis

The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) today put Minister of Education Ronald Jones on notice for industrial action if he does not meet with members by next Wednesday. “BUT President Pedro Shepherd sounded the warning following a more than  three-hour long meeting with scores of teachers who were summoned to a 1 p.m. meeting at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium … On announcing the meeting  on Wednesday evening, BUT president Pedro Shepherd said the union had issues to discuss with the teachers but he did not ‘think the issues can last us for the entire day – Barbados Today (22 April, 2016)

You are very right, Mr. Shepherd!

You did not think period, Mr. Shepherd, because you are being paid to do a job from which you and others are going AWOL without the slightest care about that said job, nor those who will suffer from your dastardly absence. Both of these actions were wildcat strikes.

If you have “no dispute with the Ministry” why did you walk out on the students?

Is that the type of conflict resolution which you are teaching the students when you give Government an ultimatum  to meet with you, instead of asking for a meeting?

Pray tell me Mr. Shepherd why you called out  your members for a meeting at 1 p.m. on Friday 22nd April, 2016 when you knew full well that the students were preparing for the exam of their life?

Couldn’t you have met after school, or is the welfare of your charges irrelevant to you and the others?

Don’t you get enough time off during the year?

Don’t you get about 3 months holiday plus about 3 teachers’ days?

How come there are no:

Police Officers’ days?

Immigration Officers’ days?

Customs Officers’ days?

Prison Officers’ days?

You don’t seem to know anything else but strike, thereby interrupting our children’s education!

Every time they have important exams coming up you seem to think that that’s the best time to strike.

You and Mrs. Redman are being paid by the parents/guardians of the said students whom you are depriving of their education.

I wonder how you can have the gall to pick up a cheque for what you did.

It’s time the nonsense stops.

If one doesn’t work, one should not be paid.

Therefore you shouldn’t be paid for the time you wasted Friday April 22 and Friday April 29, 2016.

How many days do the primary school children have to study for the exams now, Mr. Shepherd?

You stole two from them which means that they didn’t have any tuition on two out of five days before such an important exam, leaving parents/guardians in limbo as what to do with the children.

That was the epitome of callousness!

“Children speak in the field what they hear in the house.” – Scottish Proverb

The Caswell Franklyn Column – Clarifying Public Servants Services

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Clarifying public servants services

Caswell Franklyn, Added 18 October 2015

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More Action at a Secondary School

Hon Ronald Jones, Minister of Education

Hon Ronald Jones, Minister of Education

Coming in the wake of the classroom sex video BU is looking into another matter at Princess Margaret School. It appears a teacher was beaten by a school boy and fainted from the experience. What is alarming is that other teachers who were present were scared shitless to offer assistance to a fallen comrade.

It is not surprising we are told that the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has been slow to take action and the BSTU as is the norm is being ignored. Can we expect the Ministry of Education to take action? What about the embattled Minister of Education?

No Pain No Gain: Barbados Economy On Life Support

The tenor of public debate about where the government will cut 400 million has become interesting to follow in recent days. Can we pick up the conversation from before the general election when the platform cry by the government was that public sector workers will not be sent home?  A few months later, and as recent as today, we have had to listen to the head of two unions address the prospect of government slashing public sector jobs.

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The Alexandra Incestuous Factor

Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer

Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer

Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other

Nation Newspaper

It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.

One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country  and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.

Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.

Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.

‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.

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Alexandra School: "Separation" and Sacrifice

Submitted by Yardbroom

Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra - Image credit - Nation

Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra – Image credit Nation

I wonder how many of those teachers, who assiduously canvassed for the Head to be “separated” from the school, thought that they too would be separated, and if they did, why did they fight with such alacrity [eagerness]?…I have only posed a question.

The general idea from the present Government’s perspective was to solve a major problem and this up to a point they have done. The main players are no longer at the school, the school has an opportunity to do what it is mandated to do…teach children and thus move on.

Many of the major participants will never be the force they once were and some at the end of careers, will be remembered for things they would rather forget.

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